However, the plays thus for the first time1
introduced by way of expiation neither freed men's minds of religious fears nor their bodies of disease.
Indeed, it fell out quite otherwise; for the games were in full swing when an inundation of the Tiber flooded the circus and put a stop to them, an accident which —as though the gods had already turned away, rejecting the proffered appeasement of their anger —filled the people with fear.
And so when Gnaeus Genucius and Lucius Aemilius Mamercus (for the second time) were consuls, and men's minds were more troubled by the search for means of propitiation than were their bodies by disease, it is said that the elders recollected that a pestilence had once been allayed by the dictator's driving a nail.2
Induced thereto by this superstition, the senate ordered the appointment of a dictator to drive the nail.
Lucius Manlius Imperiosus was appointed, and named Lucius Pinarius master of the horse.
There is an ancient law, recorded in archaic words and letters, that the chief magistrate shall on the thirteenth of September drive a nail; the tablet was formerly affixed to the right side of the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, where Minerva's chapel is.
This nail served, they say, in those days of little writing, to mark the number of years, and the law was confided to the chapel of Minerva, for the reason [p. 367]
that number was an invention of that goddess.3
(Cincius, a careful student of such memorials, asserts4
that at Volsinii, too, nails may be seen in the temple of Nortia,5
an Etruscan goddess, driven in to indicate the number of
years.) Marcus Horatius the consul dedicated the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in accordance with this law, in the year after the expulsion of the kings;6
later the ceremony of driving the nail was transferred from consuls to dictators, because theirs was the higher authority. Then, after the custom had been allowed to lapse, it was thought to be of sufficient importance to warrant the appointment of a dictator for that very
purpose. It was for this reason that Manlius was designated, who, however, as though appointed to wage war and not to discharge a religious obligation, aspired to conduct the war with the Hernici, and hunted down the men of military age in a rigorous levy; but in the upshot, opposed by the united efforts of all the tribunes of the plebs, he yielded either to force or to a sense of shame, and resigned his dictatorship.